Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, CLEOPATRA'S MUMMY; BRITISH MUSEUM, CASE NO. 6807, by FREDERIC ROWLAND MARVIN



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CLEOPATRA'S MUMMY; BRITISH MUSEUM, CASE NO. 6807, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: A heap of crumbling bones
Last Line: More fair than she.
Subject(s): British Museum, London; Cleopatra, Queen Of Egypt (69-30 B.c.); Mummies; Museums; Art Gallerys


A HEAP of crumbling bones,
Black with old Egypt's dust and grime;
A bit of shrivelled skin;
And painted cloth,
Brittle from years,
And with bitumen stained.

Was it for these, ambitious Roman,
Thou the lily of pure wedded love
Didst scorn to wear,
That so upon thy perjured heart
Might blush the crimson passion-rose of sin?

Draw near! Thy hand repose
Upon these dark and pulseless breasts,
Hard as the lava-stones,
O'er which in triumph roll'd,
All drenched in blood,
Thy chariot wheels,
Whilst shouting hosts
Rent with loud acclaim,
From sea to sea,
The azure heavens!

Once were these crumbling bones
Clothed in a woman's beauty,
More fragrant than the breath of incense
Burned where tinkling bells,
And crystal fountains,
Filled with gentle music
The whispering groves of fair Dodona,
And the pale-eyed priestess
Breathed the hallowed air.
Here rests the dark-eyed daughter of the Nile,
Who nursed on golden bed,
The sucking asp.

Draw near, thou lover
Whom the sweet-voiced poets laud!
Enfold with throbbing heart
The proud lascivious queen
Of all thy passion and desire,
For whom thou didst despise
The fair Octavia in her Roman home.

Thou wilt not come!
The lonely shadows deepen,
And from English sunset,
Dull and gray as sea-blown mists,
Dies the last flickering beam,
And all at length is still.
The visitors are gone:
The doors are closed:
The daughter of great Ptolemy,
In the London-town,
Slumbers unconscious of her shame.

Where are the Cæsars,
And proud Anthony of old?
Their warring spirits earth defied,
And Heaven.
But now the meanest weed
That on forsaken Actium's field
Blooms for the dead,
Need fear no rude alarm;
The armèd hosts are gone;
Their conflicts all are ended,
And the fury of their wrath
Is stilled forever.

Draw near—
None shall thy right dispute!
In yonder crystal case,
She who was the passion and despair
Of nobler hearts than oft have ruled the world,
Dishonored lies—unloved!
Meanly labelled and described
For vulgar eyes to scan,
Her charms
The vilest boor may view,
And count himself
More fair than she.





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